I have the pleasure of teaching an enthusiastic and talented group of students art each year, including kids, age 7 - 12, teens, and adults. I teach classes out of my West Orange, NJ, home studio, as well as at Work & Play, a co-working space in neighboring South Orange, and last year I also taught a workshop at Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, NJ.
In Einstein's words, "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." I hope I've achieved this, even in the smallest of ways. Here's a smattering of the work accomplished by many of these students throughout the year, along with some takeaways.
AGES 7 - 12: From various renditions of Harry, the studio rubber duck, completed in a variety of media, to self portraits on mylar, to Google Doodles inspired by ancient Egypt, design work influenced by the Sagrada Familia, skulls, invented dragons from dinosaur figurines, and landscapes, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
TAKEAWAYS: Students understood how to perceive and represent a self-portrait, discovered how to incorporate text and images together to communicate an idea, learned how to use an X-Acto knife to cut foamcore, understood that some artwork is planned first while others are not, they always learn that making mistakes are ok, contrast is necessary to differentiate forms, and the use of negative space is integral to successful work.
PARENT / CHILD: I periodically taught a mother/daughter semiprivate with two of my students, and they went so far as to create two separate watercolor paintings that actually merge subject matter, from their own points of view. Can you see what is similar and connected? This was a great exercise for a parent and child to cooperate and grow together, artistically and relationally.
ADULTS: I teach adults primarily watercolor in a beautiful room in Work & Play (a co-working space) located in South Orange, NJ, as well as a program called JumpstART, out of my home studio, in West Orange. Over the course of 2016 I worked with several beginners as well as veteran students on the above work. Students explored botanical representations outside during the summer months, as well as inside during the cooler months. Etegami-style postcards were created as a way of lessening expectations and loosening approaches. Explorations in media have included collage, adding salt, alcohol, adding ink, working on different papers, including hot press and cold press and learning how to embrace the spontaneity of painting on YUPO. Students have learned how to perceive color by painting white and black objects. Newbies always start off with the basics of painting a singular object in monochrome, then building to complementary colors and eventually onto a full palette.
TAKEAWAYS: I'm frequently talking about mindfulness and finding space for creativity during class. I've referenced "Wired for Creativity" throughout the year, which has led us to start incorporating meditation in some classes. Students have learned the importance of walking away from their work, or setting it aside for a week to get a fresh perspective. Many have trusted the sometimes fearful process of trying new approaches or working with subject matter out of their comfort zone to open up new possibilities and to attain growth.
PETERS VALLEY WORKSHOP: Over a weekend in August, I taught a watercolor workshop at the beautiful Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, NJ. Some of the students were utter beginners while others were more seasoned, having studied with other watercolor artists. It was a really enjoyable group and spending the weekend teaching in the Delaware Water Gap National Park is always a treat. I won't be teaching this summer, but planning for 2018.
TAKEAWAYS: Students felt they stretched themselves and pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone. Some felt working outdoors was the best part of the weekend, as well as thinking large, rather than the details. A beginner was impressed that he could "paint anything at all" and that he "actually likes some of what [he] did." They were amazed with the amount of varied expereices we accomplished in two days. The monochromatic painting exercise is the most valuable lesson many learned.
Want to Study with Me?
Lessons are enrolling throughout the year for kids, teens and adults, both in my West Orange studio, as well as at Work and Play in South Orange, NJ. I encourage you to explore the class options and reach out if you have any questions.
If you're not sure, here's what a recent workshop student said about working with me:
"How stimulating being with a teacher like Jenny could be and inspiring!"
Summer art lessons and workshops finished off a few weeks ago with these fruits of my students' labors. I had the fullest teaching schedule I've experienced since closing my Newton studio, enrolling several new students in a part-time summer drawing camp, an after-camp art class, and a watercolor workshop. Since putting my youngest in part-time childcare, I've been able to promote my lessons to a wider audience and offer more sessions.
These are just the tip of the iceberg from the summer:
What's even better than this visual eye candy is the experience my students had. None of them wanted the classes to end; my watercolor workshop students couldn't come up with one criticism. I worked with several adults, particularly mothers, who carved out time for themselves for the first time this summer. To see their joy and satisfaction from their work was priceless. And, whether the students were children or adults, the process of making these works was a conduit to growth, learning, and joy (despite occasional frustration).
Interested in experiencing the joy of creating? Check out my Fall lesson schedule online. I'm offering several small group sessions in my West Orange Studio on the 3rd Floor including after school kids classes, an AM jumpstART for adults, and my signature Saturday teen class, as well as two classes (Painting in Watercolor and Taking Watercolor & Drawing Further) at Work & Play in South Orange.
Sometimes all you need to be creative are some basic tools, a framework, and a nurturing guide within which to make something. During the 1st annual NJ Makers Day on Saturday, March 21st, I will be offering visitors to the West Orange Public Library an opportunity to creatively contribute their mark without intimidation or expectations.
I hear all the time from adults "I can't even draw a stick figure" and "I'm not creative". Banish those thoughts and let me help you contribute to a community "Handala". Influenced by the structure of mandalas, the "Handala", a concept I discovered from artist, Ron Hornung, is a mandala made of hands. (While rooted in Buddhism and Hinduism, mandalas in their simplest constructs are visual structures, which represent wholeness, because of their arrangement of integrated elements around a unifying center.) Visitors both young and young at heart, will be asked to trace their own hand and embellish it or the space around it with colored pencils.
During the making of the "Handala" hopefully I'll dispel some myths about art making, giving you a chance to express yourself without fear, as well as a chance to learn more about a very old artistic / spiritual symbol. The completed "Handalas" will remain at the library for display after the event. Children and adults are welcome. I guided students and parents in making "Handalas" at Gregory School's Happy Healthy Kids Night in the Fall and saw many self-conscious adults in particular, sit down, get past their fear and make something with their kids.
I will be at the library from 1:30 - 4pm on the 21st. Many other STEM activities will be offered throughout the day including creating recycled jewelry and family activities involving technology demos and art. Check out the article in The Alternative Press for more information about workshops, demos, makers, and hours. I hope you'll save the time to participate in a day that promotes the culture of making!
Over the course of three days, from August 15 - 17th, I instructed five very eager students in a workshop called Painting the Texture of Tea at Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ. Located in the Delaware Water Gap National Park, its isolated location nestled in the hills overlooking the Delaware River provides for a space to focus on work without distractions. All of the students ranged in experience from a complete beginner to some who have not painted in 25 years. What I saw throughout the weekend was a lot of risk-taking and courage to get oneself in front of the easel, and each day struggle through a new problem. All overcame their own challenges and ended the workshop with a renewed confidence.
All of the workshops held last week were tea-themed in honor of the opening reception of Peters Valley's current exhibit, Sweet Tea. Each morning, we started our practice at the easel with a tea meditation and tasting. We learned how to appropriately taste tea and a little bit about its history and cultivation. The first day we began with a demo and set to work on a monochromatic painting, forcing the students to see the values in the subjects in front of them. The second day we upped the ante by creating full color paintings of our tea subject matter. And the final day was spent considering how to create works involving the subject of tea beyond a typical still life. I was amazed with the ideas that the students came up with, considering the relative short amount of time.
A fringe benefit of the workshop was all of the technical information the students learned about brushes, paints, and painting without the use of solvents. All were surprised and amazed by the obvious differences when switching to higher quality materials. I was fortunate to receive some sample paints from M.Graham which I shared during the workshop. The students couldn't get over the lovely texture of the paints as well as the purity and brightness of the colors when compared to some other lesser quality oils they were using. Thank you M.Graham for sharing your paints with us! And, a special thank you to our studio assistant, Signe Ballew, who went above and beyond to make our studio run smoothly.
Take a peak at the works created by my students:
This student had not painted in 25 years! She was extraordinarily nervous in the beginning, but after many adjustments and changes, finally grew comfortable with her work. We focused greatly on the reflections and textures of the tea and cups, as well as the composition of her second piece. Her final work in progress depicts two cups from which she shared tea with her mom who passed away last year, hence the depiction of only one hand.
Allison, my sister, had not painted in about 15 years and I had no idea how receptive she would be to my criticism. It turned out to be awesome! Throughout many of her works, they completely evolved into different compositions and color schemes than when they began. Eventually she would find the painting, not without much frustration. She brought a dried out lemon to the workshop which at some point found its way into almost all of her paintings (even if it was then painted out). The last piece began with the lemon stamped with oil on the canvas paper and a suggestion of a tea leaf, but ended with evocations of lemons in the background and the suggestion of a hill or mountain form in the foreground of an entirely different color.
This student had never painted in her life until last weekend! Unfortunately she was unable to attend on Friday's session, so we got her started with a monochrome on Saturday. As we ended the workshop on Sunday, she had only just gotten started with her color piece. But, she started to get the idea of painting metal and also decided to mix actual tea leaves into her oil paints!
Emily is one of my students from my studio who enrolled in my workshop. While she's been working with me for about three years, these were only her 2nd and 3rd oil painting. She is developing work for entrance to art school next year so she aimed to complete a few strong works to add to her portfolio. I think she is in the process of achieving that goal, and though she didn't get to the third painting, we will revisit the topic later on back at TraillWorks.
This was another student who had not painted in over 15 years! She was very self-conscious of her work at the start of the workshop, but by the end was boasting about her achievements in the dining hall. Not only was it interesting to see her still life objects which were direct from England, but it was fascinating to see her shift into a comfort zone with the paint and subject matter. By the end she was having so much fun, as you can see in her final painting of a tea bag and tea cups.
I will leave you with a few comments from my students:
"I can't tell you how safe you have made me feel."
"I especially realize how much you gave me in this class when I hear myself tell my husband all about it. Thank you for all your preparation and making the tea theme come alive. Thanks also for all the paint, mixing, brush, palette knife knowledge. I will be hearing your advise about putting colors next to one another every time I pick up a paint brush. I've decided not to put the paint stuff away in a closet, but get a spot set up in the house somewhere.The class time just flew! A great experience!"
If this looks interesting to you, don't miss my upcoming workshop, Painting in the Burbs, set for September. There is still time to enroll!
There was an article published by the Huffington Post recently comparing the before and after drawings by students and artists. The article strove to depict what happens to art after devoted practice is put into the work. The results were compelling enough for me to share with you some of the before and afters of my own students. While I don't have exactly the same images to show the before and after, you can certainly see a growth in the work from a student's early pieces to their later pieces.
There is real value to artistic practice; devoting time in class and out of class to improving both technique and conceptual development. These two elements are what I've always strived to develop in my students. It is important that an artist understand and gain a technical ability in a variety of media, giving them a strong foundation from which to work, as well as creating focus, or a direction in terms of the subject matter.
What comes as a result of these lessons, beyond the technical ability is a confidence and ease that generally wasn't there before. Most students begin lacking confidence, comparing themselves to others, and skeptical of their own capabilities. They leave me, in most cases, with a sense of artistic self-awareness and eagerness to continue, whether in art school, as a hobby, or professionally.
If you'd like to gain any of these traits and are looking for a mentor to guide your artistic pursuits, my fall lessons and workshops are enrolling now in my Studio on the 3rd Floor. I have openings for small group and privates lessons, as well as a workshop, called Painting in the Burbs, for adults. Learn more at traillworks.com/art-lessons--workshops.html.
Adult student Pat completed the first painting at another studio, then repainted it with my guidance at TraillWorks. We worked on mixing colors, anatomical structure and mass in the redo. This painting was a study from a photo she took of a scene from Downton Abbey, on her TV screen - hence some of the distortion in the figures, which she greatly improved in the second version.
Teen student Emily's work, at the start of lessons in 2011, and then around 2013. The first piece was completed from observation and reference photos in my studio using colored pencils and watercolor. She has developed a much more sophisticated use of color and shadows, and range of values in the apron (drapery study) that she drew in pastel two years later.
Child student Noa's work in 2008 next to his work in 2011. He was around the age of 6 when he began and probably around 9 when he drew my dog. Of course, child development plays a role here, but consider also that as children near adolescence their art-making drops off if not supported and nurtured.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, a big mutt Ringo, making and teaching art. TraillWorks is the apron under which I create and teach. My own art develops mostly in my West Orange home studio, but is sometimes spurred through my teaching, which takes place at Oh! Canary Studio, located in Maplewood, NJ.
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Studio on the 3rd Floor
West Orange, NJ
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Photos of Jennie by Kat Dela Cruz..